Douglas Bastard's Rants of Rage

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This article was written on 25 Jul 2014, and is filled under Uncategorized.

Leaving evangelism

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One of my friends on Twitter has been sharing pictures of the Hillsong conference that’s been taking place in London. Huge fingers of light jab the heavens from the side of the stage. There are video screens. And the crowd all seem to be lost in the moment. This is marvellous if you like This Kind Of Thing, but my problem is that I don’t anymore.

When I first started becoming a Christian a year ago, this all seemed great. People were open and positive about God and I allowed myself to get swept up in all the wide-eyed enthusiasm. A tide of joy will only carry you so far, however, before you notice all of the other things that it’s carrying along as well. And that starts getting problematic.

Most obvious among this is the intolerance. This doesn’t manifest itself as Ian Paisley drenching the first three rows in flob. It’s a smiling, thoughtful kind of intolerance that is your friend and that says God doesn’t want people being gay and that, if you find you can’t marry a nice girl and plausibly live a lie, then you should be celibate.

When I first heard this, I felt upset. I went through a phase of thinking that maybe they were right and that gay people were actually mentally ill without wanting to think past the first sweeping assumption. And I realised, within weeks, that I was being an arse. My first principles, which had always been to think we were all God’s children and should try and be happy, were right. So I kept quiet.

But other stuff started being thrown up. Like how I should get back with my bipolar wife and live out a life of quiet misery because it was what God wanted me to do. Or that people with depression could be prayed over in a way that people with a broken leg couldn’t be. This kind of thing. And then there was the language.

And I fell into using this myself, before you think I’m accusing people of doing stuff I didn’t do. I was there in the front rows, arms aloft, weeping my heart out, emoting away and falling into using the evangelical lexicon like everyone else. Phrases like being ‘on fire’ for something, talking about how God ‘showed up’ and certain words being ‘laid on’ someone.

Yes, that was me.

The problem with this, and here I’m going to sound terribly English, is that it’s so bloody loud. Yes, we know that we’re all caught up in the moment, but rather than just rabbit on about it, why don’t we shut up and do stuff? And if we’re doing stuff, then don’t garland it with theological windbaggery, but let’s just get on with bloody doing the good things that we’re here to do and shut our yap about what God thinks.

My church did stuff like food banks, English classes and other stuff that were great, but slathered in such a thick layer of evangelistic religiosity that I found it really hard to stomach, as though it was only worthy insofar as God might like it. Doing it because it was the right thing to do for people who were suffering didn’t seem like it was enough. And that’s wrong.

In contrast, when I worked at a meal for the homeless with my new church, we just did the meal for the homeless and vulnerably houses. And that was it. We gave them a meal, we tidied up and we went home. Nobody pretended that we were the last bastion of Christian civilisation as we had a job to do and got on with doing it and everybody’s experience seemed the better for it. Including mine

Nobody was preached at, prayed for or spoken over. It was done with grace and humility and, here’s the kicker, wholly unobtrusively. And that seems to be the thing. If someone wants to talk about faith, then I’ll gladly do it. And if someone wants to do other stuff, I’ll do that as well. It all seems less aggressive and less like it’s making huge emotional demands on all of the participants.

The world gets a thing that it needs, we get the satisfaction that comes with doing it and nobody gets a lecture they don’t want to hear. And that feels like it’s kind of the point. For now, you can take a look at the picture above, nicked from http://badtheologybeaver.tumblr.com where you can find some of the bilge I used to come out with. Read it and weep.

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